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Teams in Tucson, Phoenix knock on doors to get teens back in school (+ Video)


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  • Lisa Irish/Arizona Education News Service

Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Dr. H.T. Sánchez, Right, Talks With Dalton About Why He Should Go Back To School And Graduate On Time On Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 In Tucson, Ariz. (Rick Scuteri/ AP Images For Pearson)

Why were Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton knocking on doors this August?

To get as many of the 20 percent of Arizona youth who have left high school as they can back in school before classes started this year and on track to graduate.

The Arizona-based Steps to Success initiative in Tucson and Phoenix brings together elected officials, school leaders, local celebrities and business owners to go door-to-door to talk students through the process of re-enrolling and providing them with on the spot wraparound services to keep them enrolled.

Video: Steps to Success 2016 in Tucson and Phoenix by Lisa Irish/AZEdNews

Since 2014, Rothschild and Stanton have made high school dropout prevention a key initiative of the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable.

In Tucson, hundreds of volunteers including Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Dr. H.T. Sánchez and several University of Arizona basketball, football and softball players joined the mayor to visit 194 homes of students who left high school on Aug. 3, 2016.

Since the launch of Steps to Success in 2014 in Tucson, hundreds of volunteers have walked door-to-door resulting in the re-enrollment of 384 Tucson students.

In Phoenix, six teams of volunteers visited the homes of students who left high schools in the Phoenix Unified School District to get them back to school and get them connected with Phoenix Union’s Graduation Highway program, in which dropout prevention specialists work directly with students to continue their education.

“In Phoenix we don’t give up on anybody,” Mayor Greg Stanton said.

Volunteers included Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent Chad Gestson, councilwoman and Phoenix Union School Board Member Laura Pastor, former Phoenix Suns player Steven Hunter, former Phoenix Mercury player Adrian Williams-Strong, Phoenix Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner, Phoenix Police Chief Joe Yahner, Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher, Phoenix My Brother’s Keeper Coordinator Martin Whitfield and many more.

“We want these young women and men to know that it’s not just their school district and teachers who want them to come back to school – the entire community is behind them and wants them to succeed,” Stanton said.

Phoenix teams met with more than 30 students who left Betty Fairfax, Camelback, Central, Carl Hayden, North, and Maryvale high schools.

“Our economic success as a city is tied to these kids, and when they return and complete their education it can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars of income over the course of their lives,” Stanton said.

To help support the program’s expansion across the state and nation, a group of state and national organizations have rallied together. These groups include America’s Promise Alliance, the Arizona Mayor’s Education Roundtable and Pearson.

Video: Tucson Unified School District’s Fifth Steps to Success Walk!